group of students  holding books in front of school sign

Last week, Floyd T Binns (FTB) 8th grade Spanish 1 students took a walking field trip across the street to Sycamore Park Elementary School (SPES) to read to kindergarten classes. This annual event, in its sixth iteration, took place on the afternoons of February 20 and February 21, 2024. The tradition started in 2017, prior to the pandemic, when FTB Spanish teacher, Sheila Zakielarz, coordinated the event with SPES Principal Derek McWiliams.

During the visit, the 8th graders read Spanish childrens’ books aloud to small groups of kindergarten students. Each session lasted approximately 10 minutes, during which the older students shared beloved tales, including classics like the Froggy books and Dr. Seuss stories, all translated into Spanish.

The impact of this annual event extends beyond language learning. For some of the kindergarten students, Spanish is their first language, and their faces lit up when they heard the stories being read in Spanish. For others, it's an exciting opportunity to explore new words and experience familiar stories in a different language, sparking curiosity and broadening their horizons.  

Meanwhile, for the 8th graders, the experience offers a chance to give back to their community while reinforcing their own language skills. By sharing their knowledge and enthusiasm for Spanish, they not only bolster their confidence in reading in Spanish but also cultivate a sense of responsibility and leadership. Ms. Zakielarz said, “I have found that the most shy 8th graders shine in this setting as the 5-year-old audience is so forgiving and cute!  Oftentimes, their experience reading aloud to their own younger siblings makes the proposition of reading aloud in Spanish in this setting an easier stretch out of their comfort zone.”

Sycamore Park Principal Derek McWilliams expressed excitement about the 8th graders visit, stating, "Our students absolutely loved it. It's exciting for them to have the 'big kids' from the middle school read to them in Spanish. It's not just about language, it's about building connections and creating memorable experiences."

Before they left the elementary school, Zakielarz had all of the 8th grade students take a picture in front of the Sycamore Park sign to commemorate the event.